This study proposes an innovative passive vibration mitigation device employing essentially nonlinear elastomeric springs as its most critical component. Essential nonlinearity denotes the absence (or near absence) of a linear component in the stiffness characteristics of these elastomeric springs. These devices were implemented and tested on a large-scale nine-story model building structure. The main focus of these devices is to mitigate structural response under impulse-like and seismic loading when the structure remains elastic. During the design process of the device, numerical simulations, optimizations, and parametric studies of the structure-device system were performed to obtain stiffness parameters for the devices so that they can maximize the apparent damping of the fundamental mode of the structure. Pyramidal elastomeric springs were employed to physically realize the optimized essentially nonlinear spring components. Component-level finite element analyses and experiments were conducted to design the nonlinear springs. Finally, shake table tests using impulse-like and seismic excitation with different loading levels were performed to experimentally evaluate the performance of the device. Experimental results demonstrate that the properly designed devices can mitigate structural vibration responses, including floor acceleration, displacement, and column strain in an effective, rapid, and robust fashion. Comparison between numerical and experimental results verified the computational model of the nonlinear system and provided a comprehensive verification for the proposed device. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.